Starting a Small Janitorial Business

A janitorial service is a well paying, steady business. You agree (contract) to perform certain scheduled actions and the client pays you on a monthly basis.

If you love cleaning and keeping things spic n’ span, an excellent home business you can start is a janitorial service business. While maid services typically clean households, janitorial services clean commercial buildings such as businesses, hospitals, schools, retail stores, warehouses, manufacturing facilities,malls and even parking lots.

This business has shown remarkable growth in the last few years. It has benefited from corporate downsizing and increased reliance of businesses to outsource cleaning services.

Contracting private firms to perform this service has also become the best option for many businesses given the high turnover rate of employees in this business. After all, it may not be easy to find a person who thinks that pushing a broom for the rest of his or her life is the best career of all.

The Startup

A beginner can start with ordinary household tools (and buy more as they are needed), plus some cleaning supplies. To start, find a small store or business that needs cleaning at night and offer your services. Do all the work yourself for a while. Learn first hand how long it takes to do each job, which techniques work best, and the type and amount of supplies that are needed.

When you are just starting, it is a good idea to tell the client that you are learning, that you want to do a professional job, and that you might have to adjust your rates when you learn how much work and supplies are required. Be sure to ask them to advise you of anything they think you can do better — and thank them when they do.

People love to give advice, and in this case it is not only free training, it will help you keep the contract while you are still learning.

On your first few jobs take notes of the workload and time it takes for each operation, so you will know what to consider when bidding on future jobs, and how long it should take your helpers.

Most janitorial contractors have checklists that they use when walking through the job with the prospective client, so they can find out (and record exactly what is wanted — and bid accordingly. The objective is to bid the amount that will satisfy both you as a business person and the client.

Before making your final bid, check the outside of the building to see if there are additional chores that could or should be included, such as sweeping a parking lot, straightening the trash bin or washing the outside windows. Also check the general appearance (which will tell you the quality of work they expect), and see if there is someone that may be hard to please.

When hiring help, you will probably need to bond them (as well as yourself. Many businesses will not deal with janitorial companies unless they are bonded, because they have access (often, a set of keys) to their buildings and offices when no one else is there. It is not difficult to find helpers. Many students and day workers are happy to “moonlight” to make a few extra bucks.

To locate professional janitorial supplies, look in the phone book or a multi-volume reference book that lists all major manufacturing companies in the country.

Some janitorial contracts include refilling paper towel containers and the like, which add a minor amount to the contract price.. Other include periodic wax removal, special jobs like window or wall washing, carpet shampooing and even plant care. You can probably increase your profits by selling some of the suppliers, since you can buy in larger quantities than most of your clients.

Most suppliers do not wholesale to retail establishments or small businesses. If you find a good source for wholesale supplies, you may be able to offer the same supplies at or below the price they are currently paying — and still make a profit.

Note if you do the work AND furnish the expendable supplies, your service contract will be a little more secure since the client depends on you for both the work and supplies.

As your business grows, you can add equipment that you have specific need for — such as buffers, wax strippers and commercial vacuum cleaners, that will enable you to do more jobs and make more money. Keep an eye out for bargains in used janitorial equipment, but don’t buy things you can’t use; save your money for things that will help you make money.

Aside from obvious potential problems like theft or major breakage, the greatest possible problem is when you and the client disagree on what work is supposed to be done. It is very easy for this to happen unless everything is IN WRITING, and the results can be very unpleasant.

When you accept a job or submit a bid, every detail of what you are responsible must be spelled out (remember the checklist mentioned above). You can’t just say clean and tidy the place — this leaves too much open to interpretation. Put down the details and make sure that both you and the client understand them the same way. This may take a little more effort at contract time, but it can save some big headaches.

You will need to keep a current record of incoming and outgoing cash, and a file of your receipts and checks. Your financial records should be summarized monthly to let you know how you are doing and annually for income taxes.

Your contracts can be fancy, technical forms from a lawyers, or simple forms from a stationery store, or even a letter that you compose spelling out the details of the agreement and you both sign. A contract needs only state that in exchange for a certain fee (paid monthly or?), you will perform the listed chores on a daily, weekly or whatever basis (separate them by when they are to be done).

Starting Small

Start your business part-time. Starting small and working out of your home is about the only way to get into the business at little or no cost. By working out of your home instead of an office you save on rent, electricity and insurance as well as the deposits or payments needed to start those services. Working part-time while holding another job will allow you to build the business slowly without spending a lot of money up-front on marketing and advertising.

Rent equipment, such as commercial-grade vacuum cleaners, instead of buying at start-up. Time the equipment rentals so that you have the equipment only when you have scheduled jobs. Renting equipment will be less convenient than having your own, but it will allow you to start without investing a lot of money. Look for equipment to buy as your business and cash flow starts to grow.

Advertise your business using free marketing, including social networking. Open free accounts on social networking sites such as Facebook, Multiply, Friendster, etc. Use those sites and others to find potential customers in your area. Consider writing a blog on industrial cleaning. Make the subject matter appealing to business owners looking to save money on their cleaning services, or choose a related topic. While focusing on social networking, don’t forget older ways of marketing, such as placing hand-written notes on community bulletin boards in grocery stores or coffee shops. Also invest time in cold-calling potential customers.

Pay your workers and helpers by the job. Maintain a list of people you can call when you need help. Hiring help only when you need it will help you keep your start-up costs low.

Invest in your business as your revenues increase.

If you plan to start small, consider the following factors:

  • Start small and keep things as simple as possible.
  • Know your limits (what services you want to offer), and how you will go about getting and keeping accounts.
  • Understand the requirements and capital necessary to succeed in the industry, and be prepared to expand your business with more expensive equipment as the need arises.
  • You must have working capital to give yourself a realistic chance at surviving in this industry.

Business Expansion

So you’ve decided you’re ready to take the next step and start expanding your own janitorial cleaning business. You can succeed and have a profitable cleaning business if you take the time to plan out your business strategy before signing that first client.

The first step is to prepare a business plan. This does not have to be a long document, but should be fairly comprehensive and address the following points:

  • The company name, address, phone number, owners/corporate officers and statement of purpose.
  • Description of the business, products and services you intend to sell.
  • The legal structure, business management, employees, support personnel, insurance and financial considerations.
  • A look at your competition and your marketing plan.
  • A three to five year financial plan with documentation including a cash flow worksheet, balance sheet, and income statement.

Put together a support team. If you are not comfortable doing bookwork and administrative tasks you might want to also look for a part-time bookkeeper or virtual assistant who can help with these duties.

Other start up tasks include:

  • After deciding on your business name do a trademark search and assumed name search to make sure the name is available.
  • Decide if you are going to work out of your home or lease office space.
  • Apply for any necessary permits and licenses.
  • Open bank accounts in the business name.
  • Obtain the appropriate insurances.
  • If necessary, secure financing.
  • Set up a system for accounting and payroll.
  • Obtain business tools, computer, fax machine, and office supplies.
  • Purchase cleaning equipment and supplies.
  • Obtain a logo and order or create your business stationary – business cards, letterhead and brochures.
  • Have signage created.
  • Create an operations and employee manual.
  • Hire employees.
  • Set a start date.
  • Send out press releases.
  • Join trade associations, the local chamber of commerce and local networking groups.
  • Check on domain names and develop a website.

Marketing Your Business

Begin marketing your business. Your business plan includes a marketing plan so use this as your guide. Your initial marketing may include direct mail pieces, ads in the local paper or radio, and perhaps a banner ad on a complimentary website. Think about developing alliances with other local businesses. Make sure that everyone you know realizes that you have a new business. Send out postcards or letters announcing your new business to friends, family and business acquaintances.

Have realistic goals for the first year of your business. Do not expect that clients will come knocking at your door. You have to convince prospective clients that you provide the services they need at an acceptable price. Once you have a few clients on board, get testimonials from them that you can use to convince other prospective clients that they need your services.


The janitorial business is not glamorous, but it is profitable because it is something that every business needs. The work is not complicated or difficult and it is relatively easy to get help. Business often prefer to deal with a service than to try and hire their own because they are not there to supervise and the service gives them some assurance of a professional job.

Starting your own cleaning business is a path you must be patient with, but can be extremely rewarding and profitable. Taking the time to plan, organize and understand your competition will help you to become aware of how your cleaning business can best serve the needs of businesses in the area. Taking the time to do things right before getting the first client on board will help to make sure your business is successful.

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  1. By David


    • By Jhocelyn Rivera


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